Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Leading from a Distance

I got a postcard in the mail yesterday announcing a new church start in our hometown. It was almost predictable when I saw it on our kitchen table. Very slick publication, heavyweight paper, high resolution photo, text written in a way to try and be hip, or at least somewhat in touch and funny, map to location (middle school auditorium), an appeal to attend and find out how to balance all the pressures of life and finally, anonymously addressed to "our friends at..." I can't say I'm bothered by the mailer, or even think there's anything wrong with it, but something doesn't sit right with me anymore when I see those kinds of things. I must give others the benefit of the doubt and not force them to ask the same questions I am asking. So please don't view this as a judgement on the mailer. See it as one man's attempt to reconcile his own inner tension. I used to be able to subscribe to those kinds of techniques, but today it seems so very impersonal. I gave a lot of years of my life to "leading from a distance." What I mean by that term is being up front and public, speaking or leading music to an audience that I really didn't know. To look out over a crowd of people is pretty thrilling, and to think they are willing to listen to what you have to say is good for the ego, but something about it was very unfulfilling. it always left me wondering what the impact was. How would I ever know? Nice advice would be given to stay faithful and remember that the LORD sees your work, but that never really satisfied. I think I'm yearning for more direct contact with people, to "lead up close." I used to love being in front of a bunch of people. I recently had a guy call me to be an interim worship leader for their church, but I turned him down. I just can't imagine ever doing it again. I enjoy people I interact with at work, and the conversations I have there much more. But I'm not convinced that this shift is all good.


Brittany said...

I struggle with the same issues in our church. We are members of a rather small congregation that meets in a converted car workshop. The pastor’s main emphasis for the past 2 years has been, “We need to grow so let’s do what we can to achieve that goal.” Church leadership looks to their “parent” church in another state for inspiration – not taking into consideration that their parent church is 10 times as large as our own, is in a totally different demographic and has been around for years and years. Leadership also looks to their own experiences as children attending various church functions. So, the goal is to grow and this is their strategy:
1. hold a Vacation Bible School
2. enter a float in the town’s annual Christmas parade
3. drive a decorated bus into neighborhoods and hope parents are attracted to the bus enough to allow their children to ride it to church services
4. produce a homegrown Christmas play

None of these methods has worked thus far and leadership has becomed discouraged. They blame the lack of growth on church members who aren’t committed enough to do more outreach or to gather every Wednesday night for prayer. At no point do they want to consider the possibility that perhaps the church isn’t growing because that shouldn’t be our priority to begin with. And even if it was a noble pursuit, old methods of evangelism don’t work in a diverse culture that’s not accustomed to traditional, formulaic events.

Yet, I know I have no right to point out the flaws of their plan if I’m unwilling to produce my own plan. Problem is, I don’t think evangelism necessarily needs a plan.

Blythe Lane said...

I think I spent most of my experience in formal ministry "leading up close" by default. No profound reason really...just didn't really want to be up front. Some of it was I had no ambition for it. Some of it was due to some fear.

It was always kind of a confusing mix for me because in my neck of the woods the "up front" stuff went into the pot to define "good leadership." I personally always felt that my "leadership" was in question because I wasn't actively pursuing cultivating myself in front of the crowd. Despite my ability to rise to that view/definition of leadership, that frame of thinking still really defines my internal view of leadership to some extent... It's kind of hard to move away from, you know?

Thanks for your honesty. :-)